Jesus Saves: Light and Judgement (My Redeemer Lives 4:4)

It’s easy to hear judgement in our culture:

You should look skinnier.

You should be a better parent.

You shouldn’t use your money that way.

You shouldn’t use that brand—it causes cancer.

There are a thousand unspoken messages of judgment we take in each day. Most people don’t mean to speak judgment, but how often does it press in unintended and uninvited? We can let them roll off, and we frequently do, but sometimes they start to work on us, even though we thought we bounced them off.

Where do you hear judgment from this world the most, on what topics or in what circles?

Instead of trying to escape all the judgement, let’s proclaim a new one today. This judgement combats all the others, that brings light into a dark world and replaces the noise inside our heads and in our social media feeds.

Read John 3:16-21. You’ll hear some beloved verses, but look for this one word and circle it in your Bible or jot it down on a piece of paper — judgement:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Now go back and find the word judgment again. If it’s circled, bingo, it’s easy! Next, underline in our Bibles or write next to the word judgement on your paper what the judgement is according to John 3:19.

The Light has come.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

For us, that’s all the judgement we’ll ever need… Light has come. The Spirit is in us from our baptisms and we stand praising the Lord that our sins are forgiven and there is no condemnation. Because of His resurrection, we too are resurrected into light in this life, not death.

You see, God loves light. In Him there is no darkness, and so everything touched by Christ is light. The world won’t get it. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see evil and darkness around us because people naturally love darkness; it’s the stain of original sin, and satan perpetuates that sin and shame for his benefit. With Christ, though, the judgment for us is Light. Someone can reveal something about us, poke at our tender places of sin and shame, but the judgement doesn’t change:

Our judgement in Christ is Light.

Sometimes I wonder when I feel judged if I just whispered “Light” if it might make a difference, if it might fix my heart and mind on the love of my Father, the mercy of my Savior, rather than the hurt of my neighbor. Jesus saves me dying on the cross and rising from a tomb, and He continues to save me with in this one word of judgement:

“Light.”

John 1:4-5 —

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In Him was resurrection life and power from the beginning and it certainly is here, now, with us as He dwells in us. No dark judgement can overcome it. He is in us and with us. Jesus saves:

“Light.”

The only judgement that we need— Light of the world, Savior.

Drowning All Our Knowledge (My Redeemer Lives 4:3)

I like being in the know. Don’t you?

When people bring up topics, I like to think I can keep up with the discussion. The government shut down and economic crisis—of course I know all about it. The plight of children in Sudan—yep, I read about that this morning. The theory that led to the latest Nobel prize for astrophysics— yes, let’s discuss that over coffee this afternoon.

I do not mean to make light of difficult topics, but only to make this point: I do not know all that stuff. In fact, I know very little and I need to be honest about that. We have a problem in this culture that we think we need to know everything. We open our mouths wide instead of admitting that we need to do some checking or that astrophysics really doesn’t interest us, and that’s ok. By admitting we don’t know or aren’t knowledgeable about a topic, we can actually begin to grow and that, my friends, is where the cool stuff really starts.

Today we’re going to drown all our knowledge, so that God can teach us.

Name three things you know very little about:

Mine would be something like…how to speak Mandarin, anything related to lichen, and who is hot right now in Hollywood.

Now, name three things you know quite a bit about:

For instance, I, Heidi, know a fair amount about theological study, the impact of trauma on individuals, and how to cook supper with only a few ingredients that look like they came from a basket on Chopped.

What are your topics you bring out at a dinner party? That kind of thing.

Now notice this…how little you actually know.

Even though I am a theologian, I know only a drop in the bucket about the Bible. Even though I have more than one degree in psychological theories, I am far, far from an expert on any of them; and even though I can make food appear on the table for my family, I still don’t understand what baking powder or baking soda are and how they make baking work.

We all need to learn so much more.

A man named Nicodemus learned this lesson in a conversation with Jesus in John 3:1-15. Note, this is the same follower of Jesus that later (recorded in John 19) went with Joseph of Arimathea and wrapped Jesus’ body in burial clothes and laid Him in the tomb —

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, so he really knew stuff, a lot of stuff. Jesus Himself tells him in John 3:10 above,

 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

He is still in the dark, really, even though the manuscripts of the Old Testament with the prophecies of who Jesus was and what He came for were all laid out before him. How often are we the same way? Everything about Jesus is laid before us. We think we know so much, but really, we’re just babies of the Truth.

Jesus has a different answer though, and, just like Jesus, He gives the answer before He states the problem, so that it’s in our hands, just waiting for us. John 3:5-6 —

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

God drowns everything we think we know, once, in our baptisms.

We die and rise to a new understanding, a new Spirit inside our bones. This resurrection process in baptism brings light into our darkened understanding. We look at the world from a new vantage point—the lens of the believer. We fix our eyes on Him, and He gives us Life eternal.

1 Peter 1:3-4 intricately links our baptisms with this rebirth into resurrection hope —

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…

We think we are born to learn and grow and gain knowledge and share knowledge and be knowledgeable people, but in Christ there is a new reality.

We are born to be born again.

Twice born means hope. When we remember our baptisms, we remember the resurrection and the resurrection to come.

We know so little in our tiny time and place in history, but God has a bigger plan. We know what we need to know here, for His work in us. We learn and grow each day. We admit when we don’t know something so that we can learn more and grow more and glorify Him with all knowledge.

Then, one day, when He comes again, and we are resurrected with Him, we really will be Know-It-Alls with full knowledge and understanding of all Christ is as Savior and King.

To Him be the glory in the light of our knowledge and in light of just how little we really know.

Light When You Cannot See It (My Redeemer Lives 4:2)

Our family loves meteor showers.

Well, really, it’s my dad. My dad loves meteor showers.

The rest of us love sleep.

I have vibrant memories of my dad waking us up at 1am, 2am, or 4am, whenever the best time for viewing in our area was expected. He would wrap a blanket around each of us and we would climb into the car. We would drive about a quarter mile out into our neighbor’s field, get out of the car, and lay on the hood, all lined up, with our faces turned up to the night sky. Then, it would happen: a speck of light, then another, another, until it felt like all the light was falling out of the sky and filling the space around you. I wanted to catch the falling diamonds with my mouth or in my hands the way children catch snowflakes.

After the shower, as a kid, I wondered how all the stars in the sky could be left hanging, when so many had just fallen out of the sky. How was it we still had light when it has all just fallen and passed away?

As an adult, I found this passage, Job 9:7-10, that gave me my answer:

…who commands the sun, and it does not rise;

    who seals up the stars;

8 who alone stretched out the heavens

    and trampled the waves of the sea;

9 who made the Bear and Orion,

    the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;

10 who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number.

Now I know the difference between meteors and stars, between gaseous matter and chunks of blazing stone, but the biblical lesson still holds no matter the substance in the sky we consider.

You can’t take the stars out of the sky, and the sun is still shining even when we cannot see it.

God alone places them in their positions, stretches them out in the galaxies, and plucks white dwarfs out of the sky in their time.

We have such little minds. We continue to believe more easily that which we can see even as we grow from children into elderly.

Likewise, the resurrection of the dead is the easiest thing for us to set aside in our system of beliefs. We relegate it to unimportant, not worth arguing over, and at the very least ignored. We sleep through this important doctrine, when our Father in heaven would teach us and wake us up for His unbelievable and glorious display:

The dead rise at His beckoning. The tombs unseal and Life bursts forth.

Without the resurrection of the dead, we remain in darkness. If death is not defeated in its fullness, what is the point? We could be souls wandering around a heavenly space, but God gives us greater hope. We were made for physical resurrection.

Paul says it better. We find his argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-28:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

God is all in all, and we see this vaguely in the stars hanging in the sky even when it’s cloudy and our own vision obscured. We see this more clearly in His Word, like this passage we just read that proclaims Jesus as the firstfruit of resurrection, which means there are the next fruits – each of us raised with Him. One day, we will see this fully: satan stomped underfoot, and our entire world restored. We will be bodily resurrected, with perfect bodies and a celebration like no other. It makes me sit and wonder if the angels praising Him will look like the thousand glimmering specks of meteors I watched with my dad, and there we will be watching them again together, praising together.

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

    who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8b)

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:19 again:

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

We have hope for so much more than this life, even so much more than heaven. We wait for the resurrection of the dead, which means I will praise and rejoice with my dad one day. This is no small hope.

I want to be a next fruit.

I want to stand on this earth again and sing with sparkling angels and all those who have gone before me.

We preach and teach the resurrection of the dead, something we cannot see, because we do not want to rob people of their hope. God gives light from the stars in the sky and warmth from the sun when we cannot see it, and hope for a life where those same stars will shine for Him again – brighter and more perfect.

The same is true of me and of you. You shine for Him now, even when you cannot see it, but oh, will you shine for Him again, praising Him

who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number. (Job 9:10)

with feet firmly planted on resurrection soil.